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Business Strategy

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10 Ways to Grow Your Business Without Spending Money

With the economy rebounding, many executives want go beyond strengthening their business, and grow their sales and revenue. These individuals however, are still interested in making as few capital investments as possible.

In 2013, the consulting professionals at EKS&H published the popular article, “10 Ways to Strengthen Your Business Without Spending Money.” As an update, we now present 10 new ideas to grow your business without spending money.

1. Ask your customers what else they would like. There are several benefits to asking customers what else they would be interested in buying from you. Being asked what they would like makes customers feel appreciated and valued, so you’re likely to encourage some repeat business as a result of this exercise. You may also get some ideas about profitable new product or service lines to offer. Finally, you may hear customers asking for products or services you already DO offer; you can use this information to boost your marketing and sales efforts in these areas. In a recent satisfaction survey, we asked our own clients what additional services they would like learning about. In addition to more than open-ended 20 text responses, another 150 specific current services were identified by clients.

2. Offer additional customization/options. As mentioned in No. 1, you may find that what your customers want is not significantly different from what you already offer. For example, offering a product in custom colors may not create significant additional expense, but does provide an opportunity for premium pricing. Services can also be altered in terms of timing, scale and delivery method – all for a potential upcharge. Providing simple product customizations or service delivery options may represent a tipping point for a significant increase in orders. Be sure to pass along the full cost of any changes, along with a profit adjustment in the new price.

3. Identify opportunities based on economic conditions. While some may make broad generalizations about the challenging economy, these surface-level assessments may not always capture the unique, granular-level trends. For example, “consumer spending is down” is counteracted by a surprising recent Bain study, which projected a 4-6 percent growth in luxury goods in the Americas. The lesson here is that there are almost always strategic opportunities, no matter the situation. A realtor might consider expanding into helping clients search for apartments, in response to the growing rental market. A high-end developer could find success moving toward more mid-level properties. Even a manufacturer of cars, for example, could realize increased sales by offering a slightly more affordable vehicle options.

4. Investigate competitor trends. When seeking new ways to grow, why not look to those who are growing. There are countless industry associations, reports and trend analyses. Maybe you’re lucky enough to be in an industry that enjoys a sense of camaraderie and shared interest. If not, industry players that focus on other geographies may be willing to share how they have successfully grown. Executives should constantly be looking for ways to innovate – even if it means copying a competitor’s successful strategy. Don’t let pride stand in the way of your growth.

5. Cut out the functions that are not profitable. Determine your core competencies and cut out the functions and processes that are not profitable, effective or efficient. In the new service-oriented American economy, nearly every part of a business can be outsourced and should be, if it’s more cost effective. From suppliers to product development, you may find that not every part of your business adds value. Functions such as administration, marketing, HR, payroll, technology and accounting can often be outsourced for a fraction of the cost of full-time employees.

6. Eliminate process inefficiencies. While management is often charged with identifying efficiencies, it’s often the people more directly involved with specific processes who can identify waste. Consider launching an internal challenge in which employees compete to identify the most significant ways to cut costs. And don’t just focus on product or service process improvements. Sales and financial systems, including ordering and billing, are often areas that can be optimized. An experienced process improvement consultant can help identify many of these efficiencies, and though there may be a one-time investment, the ongoing savings as a result more than pay for the initial expense.

7. Take control of referrals. Requesting referrals is a two-step process that often gets only partially completed, and therefore is rarely fully leveraged as a strategy for growth. The first part involves asking if your customers will refer you. The best time to do this is right after delivery, when they are appreciative of your products or services. This request is best made in person, but the message can also be delivered through email, a phone call, or other methods you normally use to connect. The second part of the process is asking who customers might refer to you. Taking responsibility for the next steps makes the effort much more likely to succeed. When approaching these referrals, you can begin the conversation with, “Your friend XYZ is very pleased with our service and let us know that we may be able to help you, too….”

8. Personalize your marketing. When you go to Amazon, you see suggestions for products like those you’ve purchased before. This is an example of personalized marketing, which helps customers narrow down the choices and think about products they might not have considered otherwise. Not every company has the resources of Amazon, but even small companies can take simple steps to personalize their marketing. Here are some to get you started.

  • First try sending messages from a person rather than an impersonal communication system. Consider adding a photo and email address to the body of messages, so customers know exactly who can answer questions.
  • Second, segment your email database into, for example, past and current customers. Personalized campaigns generate better responses than mass-marketing, and the information that already exists in your database should make the process easy.
  • Third, develop landing pages (pages that serve as an introduction to a particular product line or other section of information) on your website. These pages give customers an entry point to finding more of what they’re looking for.

9. Leverage all tax credits. Make sure you’re getting all the tax credits you’re entitled to, including local, state, federal and international opportunities. A wide range of businesses can benefit from things like cost segregation studies (for new or renovated buildings) and R&D tax credits (contrary to the idea that you must operate a laboratory or testing facility). Other tax credits are written for the benefit of specific industries, such as resale exclusions and machinery exemptions for manufacturers, government and nonprofit contracting incentives for contractors and subcontractors and the many tax incentives for the hospitality industry. While an initial investment may be required to identify and maximize tax strategies, the substantial long-term savings will easily offset this cost.

10. Drive faster decision-making. Another important strategy for growth is analyzing data quickly. Doing so can put you ahead of your competition and facilitate the implementation of new strategies. Business intelligence systems can help you make fast decisions. These applications include dashboards, scorecards and data visualizations that enable you to analyze your data, more fully understand your business and gain actionable insights. Some business intelligence systems are available for free and include such functions as forecasting for budgets, production, sales, and marketing; financial performance and operational reporting; procurement control; and project management. Explore business intelligence to see what it can do for your business.

Many executives feel pressured to grow business by making significant new investments, or selling more products or services to new customers in new areas. This simply is not the case. Some of the above suggestions may seem obvious, but we find many companies never fully act on them. By implementing just one or two of these strategies, you can significantly impact your business growth in any economic environment.

Joanne Baginksi, CPA, is a partner in the business consulting area of EKS&H. For more information on growing your business, contact her at (303) 740-9400 or jbaginski@eksh.com.